Understanding Our World (Course Preview)


In this post you'll get to hear from Wayfinding Academy instructor Dick Hill about one of the core courses our students are taking this term - Understanding Our World.

Understanding Our World, a course within Wayfinding Academy's core curriculum, is grounded in some basic philosophical and pedagogical beliefs.

The first is that in many ways we live in a fractured world - a world of violence, environmental decline, and poverty. Perhaps most of all it is a world of suffering. Poet Allen Ginsberg summarizes the essence of what drives this course: “The purpose of living is to relieve the suffering. All the rest is drunken dumbshow.”

The course attempts to achieve two basic goals: to understand the history and major paradigms that have shaped our world and to explore alternative ways to think and act to “relieve the suffering.”

Both goals recognize that we live in systems that shape us. “Who discovered water?” futurist and systems thinker Marshall McLuhan asked, supplying his own answer to the riddle: “We don’t know, but we know it wasn’t the fish.” One way to articulate the purpose of this course (and in larger frames of reference, education and citizenship) is to seek not to be the fish.


Pictured above: students in discussion during a recent class session.

Understanding Our World is based in the faith that humans have the capacity to understand and change the systems in which we live.

The course methodology grows out of its philosophy. The best way to understand our world—and to seek to change it in productive ways—is Dialogue, based on the perception that we “are in this together.” The course seeks to help students “listen” (to texts of various sorts, to each other, to their teachers and to their world) and to “talk back” (by writing, discussion groups, projects, creation of new organizations, hard work, etc.).

It seeks to empower students by helping them develop a more profound understanding of our world as well as the skills that can help change it. Ultimately, the course (along with other courses in Wayfinding's core curriculum) seeks to imbue students with hope, which, as former Czech President Vaclav Havel explains, is not optimism that all will turn out well, but the integrity and commitment to work to make things better, regardless of the outcome.

~ Dick Hill


Want to hear more from Dick about his educational philosophy and how the course is going so far? Be sure to watch the latest episode of This is Wayfinding at the top of this post.

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